Who really blew it in 2011? We have the complete list of losers
It’s too late now to do anything about a season gone wrong. Dreams are dead. Hopes haven squashed. And in some places the spark of life has been extinguished. The stretch run of the NFL season isn’t for pretenders. The playoff race isn’t for teams and people whose bubbles have already burst.
And there many burst bubbles littering the NFL landscape with three weeks left in the 2011 season. So many teams and people had what must have seemed like realistic expectations, only to see them go painfully unfulfilled.
The Vikings quarterback seemed to take his benching pretty well
This is Donovan McNabb's stance after getting benched. He looks more like Al Bundy than a Super Bowl almost-winning quarterback who's been sent to the bench for--and then getting outplayed by--a rookie quarterback (Christian Ponder) who, by all consensus, was drafted way too high.
It looks like the only thing missing from Minnesota's sideline was a couch, a TV and a bag of chips.
As we prepare for Week 2, which teams are for real and which teams are not.
By RALPH VACCHIANO
In 2003, the New England Patriots released popular safety Lawyer Milloy, causing an uproar up in Foxboro, Mass. He promptly signed with the Buffalo Bills, and together they hammered the Pats 31-0 on Opening Day. Tom Brady was picked off four times.
The Patriots looked like their NFL dynasty would never get started. The Bills looked like they had recaptured their glory days.
The Bills finished 6-10 that season. The Patriots finished 14-2 and won the Super Bowl.
Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is in the books. Here are some numbers that stood out to me from the Week 1 action that's already happened.
-2 How many owners were screaming at the final play of Sunday night's Cowboys-Jets game when Felix Jones was the last to touch the ball? He was the last of many to lateral the ball as the Cowboys tried to score on the final play from their own 34. And Jones' last touch ended up in the hands of Jets DL Jamaal Westerman. The result will be minus-2 points in many fantasy leagues for the fumble lost by Jones, and perhaps the difference in a win or loss come Tuesday morning.
1 - Targets Green Bay Packers WR James Jones received Thursday night in 20 snaps of action. He turned it into one catch for one yard. Why did he re-sign with the Packers again? Was it just to jumble this receiving corps up even more for fantasy owners?
4 & 1 - Tampa Bay WR Mike Williams and Houston's Andre Johnson were each targeted a league-high four times in the red zone. Johnson caught two of his, including one for a score. Williams caught one of his for a score.
5 -We're down on Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez this year because his numbers have declined. However, he did receive seven targets Sunday against a solid Bears LB corps, and turned it into five catches for 72 yards. All of those numbers are above his 2010 16-game average of 6.8 targets, 4.4 catches and 41 yards per game. Three targets came in the first quarter, three in the third and one in the fourth. He had the third-longest day of the play for the Falcons, a 30-yard catch in the first quarter.
9.75 - Yards per attempt for Chicago QB Jay Cutler, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 312 yards and two scores. He was still sacked five times, which puts him on pace for 80 this season — well above his league-leading 56 last year.
12 - DeSean Jackson, more known for what he is able to do with limited targets, was the go-to guy for Mike Vick Sunday against St. Louis. Jackson was targeted 96 times over 14 games last season for a 6.9 per game average. Sunday, he was targeted 12 times, one behind league leader Roddy White (ATL). Jackson caught six of the targets for 102 yards and a score. He was targeted double-digit times in just three games last season, including the 2010 opener (11), but keep an eye on this trend as it pertains to how Vick sees the field. TE Brent Celek and WR Jeremy Maclin received just three targets apiece.
13 - The Titans ran the ball just 13 times against Jacksonville, and fell to 0-12 all-time when they have rushed 13 times or fewer. Only three times in Jeff Fisher's tenure did the team run 13 times or less.
21.9 - Wes Welker enters Week 2 with his yards per catch nearly double his career average of 10.9 after an eight-catch, 160-yard performance Monday night against Miami. He was at 9.2 before a 99-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. He also has his average targets per game well above last year's average of 8.2 after Tom Brady went his way 12 times. That's a good sign for Welker owners as he is still a favorite option despite so many mouths to feed.
21.9 - Fantasy points New Orleans Saints RB/return man Darren Sproles had Thursday night. He tied for the team lead in targets (9) and turned it into seven catches for 75 yards to go with two carries for seven yards. On special teams, he had two punt returns for 92 yards, including a 72-yard TD return, and two kickoff returns for 76 yards.
25 - Matthew Stafford was 18-of-25 for 265 yards, two TDs and an interception by halftime. He went 6-of-8 in the second half with 40 more yards and a score. He had already targeted WR Calvin Johnson seven times, TE Brandon Pettigrew six times and Nate Burleson four times in the first half.
25 - Tim Hightower and Cedric Benson led the league with 25 carries apiece on Sunday. Hightower went for 72 yards and a score with his; Benson scored as well, on a 39-yard run, rushing for 121 yards. Hightower added three catches for 25 yards; Benson had one catch for 2 yards. 18.8 fantasy points for Benson, 18.2 for Higtower.
39 - Minnesota QB Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards. ... Has that sunk in yet? He threw for 39 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception and added 32 yards rushing for a fantasy day of 9.76 points. It's going to be hard for Adrian Peterson, who miraculously had 98 yards on 16 carries, to consistently find any running room with McNabb stretching the field to the tune of 39 yards.
46 - Denver QB Kyle Orton attempted 46 passes in Monday night's loss to Oakland. And it was not all in the second half as the Broncos attempted to come back. The Broncos ran 33 first-half plays, traling by no more than 10 points, yet 23 of those 33 plays were pass attempts by Orton. He attempted 46 or more passes just twice last season under Josh McDaniels. So just because John Fox came to town, and many worried that the forward pass would cease to exist, Orton should still be slinging the ball.
71 -Dallas WR Dez Bryant had three catches for 71 yards and a score in the first quarter. The first two catches and the score came against New York Jets DB Antonio Cromartie, the final catch, a 26-yard play down the sidelines came against Darrelle Revis. It was the last catch of the night for Bryant, despite five more targets.
An in-depth look at the Vikings offense, defense and special teams this year.
The Vikings’ expectations for 2011 can be found somewhere between promise and denial. Several talented pieces remain from a 2009 team that was one botched play from a Super Bowl berth, but those pieces are either aging or still wondering what the heck happened during last season’s 6–10 meltdown.
• Inside the Locker Room
With Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press
Who will be the biggest beneficiary of new coordinator Bill Musgrave’s West Coast system?
Adrian Peterson. With a new quarterback, the Vikings will rely on the run perhaps more than ever. Musgrave likely will implement offensive principles from his previous stop in Atlanta, where the Falcons exhausted Michael Turner every week. Expect Peterson to trump his 1,298-yard rushing performance from last season, when he missed a game and a half due to injury and played behind a depleted offensive line.
Minnesota had one of the most productive fantasy defenses in 2009 but slipped in ’10. Do you see a return to form this season?
The days of leading the league in rushing defense are probably over, but the Vikings still have the potential to produce a top-10 defense in 2011. Five defensive pillars will keep this unit relevant — end Jared Allen, tackle Kevin Williams, linebackers E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway and cornerback Antoine Winfield. The problem is the remaining six spots have been plagued by injuries, age or inconsistency.
How many games will Christian Ponder start in 2011?*
Nine. And that number might have been 16 without a lockout. Head coach Leslie Frazier has said he likes the quarterback model crafted by the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, the Jets’ Mark Sanchez and the Ravens’ Joe Flacco as former rookie starters who are now established. In other words, the Vikings didn’t draft Ponder to sit him. Either a veteran or Joe Webb might start the season because of the experience, but the team expects Ponder to be the future. *Editor's Note: The team traded for a veteran, Donovan McNabb, last week.
Who will be more productive in 2011: Kyle Rudolph or Viasanthe Shiancoe?
Shiancoe. The veteran tight end is entering a contract year and wasn't happy with his two-touchdown performance in 2010 after 11 scores the year before. Though the Vikings can be expected to utilize two-tight-end sets with Shiancoe and Rudolph, expect Shiancoe to be one of the top bailout options for the new signal-caller. Shiancoe had no problems creating space last season, but he wasn't on the same page with an oft-injured Brett Favre.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Week 14-16: @DET, NO, @WAS
All three rush defenses were in the bottom half of the league against RBs last year, allowing at least 20.8 points per game to backs. So that has to excite Adrian Peterson owners. A word of caution, though: Two of the three playoff games are on the road, where Peterson’s average dropped by 15.6 yards per game, and he scored only four of his TDs last year away from home.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Kyle Rudolph, TE Deep-Sleeper: Emmanuel Arceneaux, WR Overvalued: Defense/Special Teams Top Rookie: Christian Ponder, QB Bounce-Back: Visanthe Shiancoe, TE; Devin Aromashodu, WR Top IDP: Jared Allen, DL
• Try to Avoid
Whether it is Donovan McNabb or rookie Christian Ponder, no Viking passer is going to light it up. The offense still runs through No. 28, and the offensive line might have trouble protecting the pocket. WAIT UNTIL: 19th Rd
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
The Vikings are in rebuild mode this year. Ponder should go undrafted in most leagues this fall but holds value in keeper formats. Rudolph has a lot of upside and could be one half of a solid duo with Visanthe Shiancoe in the West Coast offense.
The NFL’s quarterback landscape has seen considerable changes since the lockout ended.
Kevin Kolb, Cardinals
Arizona traded away 2008 first-round pick (No. 16 overall) and 25-year-old Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie along with its 2012 second-round pick to acquire the young gun with seven career starts under his belt.